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Gillingham 0 Crawley 2: League 2 match report from Priestfield - Will Wright scores against former side

Gillingham’s poor form in front of goal proved costly again as they fell to a home defeat on Boxing Day.

Former Gillingham defender Will Wright put Crawley ahead with a first-half free-kick. Ashley Nadesan missed a great chance to level for the hosts before Jack Roles came off the bench to get a second for the visitors.

Ashley Nadesan missed a great chance for the Gills Picture: Beau Goodwin
Ashley Nadesan missed a great chance for the Gills Picture: Beau Goodwin

Gills head coach Stephen Clemence had made big changes for the visit of Crawley but ended up watching another loss - the team’s 11th of the campaign.

With a lack of goals and a lack of points heading into the festive fixture, Clemence reverted to wing-backs for the first time and played two up top.

Fans had been calling for a more traditional two-pronged attack for a while. Former Crawley strikers Ashley Nadesan and Tom Nichols were picked to do the damage and start to revive Gills’ flagging promotion hopes.

While the Gills have been lacking goals - lowest scorers in the division prior to kick off - their possession stats had been on the rise under the new regime - but they needed to make that count.

It was something they were unable to do in the opening half at Priestfield as they had plenty of the ball at 1-0 down but couldn’t find the quality needed.

Tom Nichols up against his former club Picture: Beau Goodwin
Tom Nichols up against his former club Picture: Beau Goodwin

Tim Dieng and Nichols both put shots wide for the Gills either side of Crawley’s 24th minute opener.

The free-kick that led to Crawley’s goal could well have been a penalty but it didn’t matter to the visitors. Scott Malone had lost possession on the edge of the box and committed a foul on Klaidi Lolos while trying to win it back.

The challenge looked just inside the box but defender Wright picked his spot from 18 yards to beat Jake Turner.

Gillingham were at times too slow from restarts and careless with the ball, leading to frustration among home fans. There were crosses into the box, corners won and balls played towards the strikers, but nothing came off.

When Conor Masterson did have the ball in the net at the end of the first half he was to be denied by the linesman’s flag, caught offside from Cheye alexander’s deep free-kick that had been played onto him.

Gillingham were booed off at the break.

Clemence kept faith with his starting eleven from the restart but it was Crawley that went closest early on. Ogie tackled Lolos on the edge of the box and Danilo Orsi hit the loose ball wide of the target.

The Gills home crowd attempted to get their team going and Masterson tested keeper Addai with a low shot after Crawley backed off when he ran at them from deep.

Nadesan put the ball over the bar from close range after Max Ehmer had met Malone’s corner with almost an hour gone.

Scott Malone plays the ball forward for the Gills Picture: Beau Goodwin
Scott Malone plays the ball forward for the Gills Picture: Beau Goodwin

The game had really opened up but keeper Addai twice thwarted the Gills, saving from Malone before Jonny Williams’ follow-up was blocked, and moments later Williams drove another shot goalwards and the Crawley stopper saved.

Ethan Coleman had a shot blocked as the hosts kept the pressure on but it was Nadesan who had the best of the chances, running onto Masterson’s long ball forward but unable to squeeze the ball in after rounding the keeper.

Just moments after Nadesan’s miss the visitors got their second when substitute Roles fired home in the 71st minute from 20 yards with the aid of a deflection off Ehmer.

Gillingham made changes upfront in the latter stages but there was little hope from two goals down. Oli Hawkins had a chance to reduce the deficit in stoppage-time but couldn’t get a decent connection on the effort.

Gillingham: Turner, Alexander (Clarke 72mins), Malone, Masterson (Hawkins 80mins), Ehmer, Ogie, Coleman, Dieng (Lapslie 64mins), J Williams (Mahoney 72mins), Nadesan, Nichols. Subs not used: Morris, Clark, Bonne.

Crawley: Addai, Gordon (Roles 69mins), Tsaroulla, Conroy, Ransom, Maguire, Wright, Lolos (Adeyemo 64mins), Darcy, Orsi (Swyer 84mins) Campbell. Subs not used: Ashby-Hammond, Henry, Mukena, Khaleel.

Referee: Ben Atkinson

Attendance: 7,150 (288 away)

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